Gravy is one of those little side dishes which takes up no more than 3 square inches of space on the table but which (for a stellar tasting gravy) takes an incredible amount of effort. So don't leave it till the last minute! Make ahead gravy is the saving grace of my meals. And doesn't skimp of flavour. It might not seem that important but if there is one question every Thanksgiving is hear more often than any other it's always "Is there any more gravy?"
Personally, I detest that commercial on TV right about those sachets of gravy claiming that "it's better than scratch". I'm here to tell you, it's really really not. Not that they're not a good option for quick and dirty gravy but they're simply not as good as scratch. Processed and freeze dried powdered foods just don't feel like Thanksgiving to me. And with this easy recipe you'll wonder why you ever resorted to gravy from a plastic packet anyways.
Most of the ingredients you need for the recipe you'll already have hanging around your crisper drawer and the rest are cheap chicken wings and a few strips of thick bacon. Since you'll only need a few strips, plan on making yourself a nice bacon and egg sammie while you're roasting away your gravy - because a little bit of bacon as sustenance always helps.
Make Ahead Gravy Ingredients
Recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver - as he's the king of getting holidays done right and ready on time!
2 celery sticks, trimmed and roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly sliced
2 onions, peeled and quartered
5 fresh bay leaves
5 fresh sage leaves
4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 star anise
4 strips of smoked streaky bacon, the best quality you can afford
8 chicken wings - if you're wings are on the skinny side add a few more for balance
freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons plain flour
Start by chopping up roughly all your veggies and herbs. This doesn't need to be pretty, it just needs to form the base for all your lovely meats to sit upon and absorb all those delicious juices that bequeath them. After you've got your veggies all done, turn your over onto 400ºF.
Ah bacon. The life source of all good Canadians and the secret ingredient to making really great gravy (or pretty much anything else for that matter). Make sure you choose thick cut bacon with a good balance between meat and fat. Too little fat and it won't add enough flavor to the mix and too much will just make the whole thing too oily. I love my local butcher over at the St. Lawrence Market since you can get your strips cut into what ever thickness you want and any kind of smoked bacon really adds to the recipe. I get them about 1/4" thick and slice them up in 1" pieces and layer them onto the veggies.
Bash the chicken wings open with a rolling pin (this will help release more juices during the roasting process) and add them to the pan. Then drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a few pinches of salt and pepper. Toss to combine and cook for 1 hour, or until the meat is tender and falling off the bone.
See how the skin is nice and crispy! That's the magic! Once everything is soft, take the pan out of the oven and put all the ingredients into a large pot over low heat. Take a strong potato masher and grind everything up on the bottom of the pot, letting the heat cook away at the ingredients as you mash. That will give it all a sweet and smoky flavour. Slowly add in the flour to thicken the mixture and continue to mash and mix. The longer you cook it like this before adding in the water the longer it will give your gravy a nice dark colour. Don't worry about burning it, a little bit of burnt ends will only add to the taste.
Once the flour is combined, add in 2 litres of hot water and boil for 10 minutes. Then turn down the heat and simmer for another 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Once it's thickened, do one more round of mashing before taking off the heat. Then put the entire mixture through a fine sieve. Do this in batches as the sieve will get clogged up if you put it all in at once. Make sure to use the masher to push all the juices through the sieve, you don't wanna leave the good stuff behind.
Once that's all done, put the mixture into a Tupperware container and refrigerate till the big day. If you do this more than three days in advance, put the mixture in the freezer and thaw out the day before use. Then, to put the finishing touches on the gravy, add in your turkey drippings to enhance the sauce and you'll have the perfect gravy done in a flash. The other benefit from doing it this way is you'll yield soooo much more gravy than if only done from the drippings or from a packet. And, you know, the more the merrier :) This year if someone asks, "Is there more gravy?" you can answer with a smile, "Yes, indeed".
Sorry I don't have a picture of the finished product, it all got gobbled up faster than I could photograph it. I guess that's a good sign though. Happy Thanksgiving!!!